Meet Community Shares Executive Director
Cheri Dubiel
Renewing Social Justice
Cheri Dubiel began her tenure as Community
Shares’ executive director with years of
experience working for and on behalf of many
Community Shares agencies.
that we do. So whenever I meet with a board member, I tell them, ‘Just a reminder, you’re my boss. I’m not your boss. I can’t tell you what to do
with your money. I hope you’ll come to board meetings and help us raise money. But this is your show.’”

In some ways, it is a fundraising cooperative where everyone helps fun the organization and helps keep its overhead low.

“Part of being a member agency is helping the organization run,” Dubiel said. “And that is part of what makes us such an efficient, well-oiled
machine. Each of our member groups, in exchange for 100 percent of the donations that are designated to them, they perform a certain number
of work hours every year and they serve as our leaders. I feel like it’s a nice exchange. We are helping them to develop their capacity to raise
money. And we are serving as spokesperson for them in workplaces and in other venues where they may not have the contacts. We represent
a whole large community of groups working on social and environmental justice.”

The face of social justice has changed since Community Shares was founded 46 years ago as diversity and equity issues have taken full
stage. Although it was able to attract agencies like UNIDOS, Nuestro Mundo and Freedom, Inc., as it evolved over time and became more a
part of “the fundraising system” with workplace giving campaigns; it was less able to support grassroots groups that resembled, in many
ways, those initial organizations that led to its founding in 1971.

“We recognized that we hadn’t been focused as much on equity and racial justice issues as we could,” Dubiel said. “I think Barack Obama’s
presidency brought a lot of these issues to the forefront again and allowed people to shine a light on things that we kind of forgotten about. We
have put a concerted effort into working more with groups working on racial justice issues. In 2014, we did a new member recruitment
process. Every few years, we do a new member recruitment process. Usually we try to hone in on a particular issue or focus area. In 2014, we
really were focused on racial justice issues. We found with the groups that we tried to recruit — we sent them materials and called them and
did a lot of follow-up — a lot of them didn’t apply. What we found out was that with our process for membership — we focus on systems change
— we needed to focus on changing our systems too.”

Led by Hedi Rudd, The Center for Resilient Cities’ rep on the Community Shares board and chair of the membership committee, the agency is
looking at how it can be more supportive of grassroots organizations.

“Maybe now that we have other ways of fundraising, we could create a new level of membership that doesn’t require people to have to have
an audit and doesn’t require as many work hours because that has been an issue for a lot of folks as well,” Dubiel said. “With a lot of these
awesome community organizing groups, people are running them while they work at least a full-time job or a full-time job and another part-time
job. They are trying to do this amazing work in the community and how do they have time to show up to seal envelopes for us or deliver
cookies. That’s something that we are spending a lot of time on. And because Community Shares is so focused on process — we’ve been
talking about this for a couple of years — we wanted to make sure that it comes from our membership.”

One of the biggest innovations at Community Shares in recent years is the advent of The Big Share, an online fundraising effort being held
March 7. All of the Community Shares agencies are listed at www.thebigshare.org. And through social media campaigns, the Community
Shares agencies have been recruiting their support bases to contribute through The Big Share.

“People find their group and then make a donation,” Dubiel said. “You can make donations to multiple groups. And then we have prizes
throughout the day that are provided by our corporate sponsors. Home Savings Bank provides a $1,000 incentive prize during one hour of the
day and then groups are competing during that hour to have either raised the most money or have the most donors. And then they get that
$1,000 prize. There are things like that which we do. And it is just a really effective, efficient way to help our groups raise a few extra thousand
dollars. Some groups raise way more than that. It’s a fun day. People get excited to see our groups on social media with the messages that
they have. It’s just a fun way to get the community involved because all of our corporate sponsors also help us deliver prizes. We do a prize
patrol. We find out who won and then 15 minutes later we show up and say, ‘You won!’ It is really super fun. It’s just a great way to get the
community engaged in giving.”

And getting the community involved is what Community Shares has been and continues to be about.
By Jonathan Gramling

When Community Shares of Wisconsin — originally called the Madison Sustaining Fund —
was established in 1971, it was a centerpiece in the counter culture/social and
environmental justice movement that was fueled by the Vietnam protests. Grassroots
organizations sprang up to promote a number of causes. And the Madison Sustaining Fund,
primarily through the Community Chip that food cooperative members paid when they paid
for their groceries, became a decentralized way to fund 15 agencies and organizations that
sprang from the mainly Euro-American movement.

Although it has now grown to over 60 member agencies today, it has kept to its founding
values.

“Rather than us being their boss, they are our boss,” emphasized Cheri Dubiel, who
succeeded Crystel Anders who ran Community Shares for 25 years. “We take leadership
from them. They all have a seat on our board of directors. Everyone has a voice at the
table. The funding that we provide to our member groups is all general operating funds. We
don’t make people apply for complicated grants. They don’t have to meet certain outcomes
in order to get their funding renewed. Once they subscribe to our values and they see our
mission and agree to our mission and they pass our application process, we assume they
know what they are doing and they are the experts. We put them at the forefront of the work